CCAFS tells the world how agriculture can adapt to climate change

The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security has prepared syntheses papers on two of the topics related to agriculture that are being considered by UNFCCC’s Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) in 2016. The topics have incredibly unwieldy and confusing titles. They boil down, I think, to agricultural practices, technologies and institutions to enhance productivity and resilience sustainably, but you can read all the subordinate clauses in the CCAFS blog post which announces the publication of their reports.

Of course, what we want to know here is whether crop diversity is adequately highlighted among the said practices, technologies and institutions. The answer is, as ever, kinda sorta. The following is from the info note associated with the first paper, “Agricultural practices and technologies to enhance food security, resilience and productivity in a sustainable manner: Messages to the SBSTA 44 agriculture workshops.”

Crop-specific innovations complement other practices that aim to improve crop production under climate change, e.g. soil management, agroforestry, and water management. Crop-specific innovations include breeding of more resilient crop varieties, diversification and intensification.

Examples include the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa initiative, disease- and heat-resistant chickpea varieties in India, improved Brachiaria in Brazil, hardy crossbreeds of native sheep and goats in Kenya, as well as changes in the crops being grown, such as moves from potato into organic quinoa, milk and cheese, trout, and vegetables in the Peruvian highlands.

The other paper, “Adaptation measures in agricultural systems: Messages to the SBSTA 44 Agriculture Workshops,” focuses on structures, processes and institutions. I particularly liked the emphasis on the importance on indigenous knowledge and extension systems. But why no mention of genebanks? Especially as Bioversity’s Seeds of Needs Project was nicely featured as a case study in the first paper. Here, after all is a concrete example of institutions — national and international genebanks — linking up to farmers to deliver crop diversity in the service of adaptation.

2 Replies to “CCAFS tells the world how agriculture can adapt to climate change”

  1. The second paper has a case study about the ClimMob platform, which is part of Seeds for Needs. It can be found on page 44.

    In this case study, and especially in the activities taking place in East Africa, seed materials come from genebanks.

    This is not being mentioned in the text, so I mention it here…

    1. Thanks, Jacob. Here’s the relevant bit.

      Case study 5.1: Farmer citizen science to face climate change: the ClimMob platform. The ICT-based ClimMob platform helps farmers identify adaptation measures faster. Current farmer participatory approaches to identify locally appropriate technologies often require much effort in organizing farmers’ groups, establishing dialogues between scientists and farmers, and organizing joint experiments. Without obviating the need for group activities, the ClimMob platform makes it possible to organize experiments in which farmers participate on an individual basis and use ICT to communicate results. Farmers each receive three different technologies to test and report their observations and preferences in a simple format using mobile phone technology. As different farmers test different combinations of technologies, they can jointly test a pool of 10-20 technologies. The platform combines the farmer trial data with weather data to analyse the results, making it possible to take full advantage of the environmental variation of an area to explore climate adaptation. Development of ClimMob has been led by Bioversity International and was funded by CCAFS and USAID since 2013. A rapidly increasing number of farmers have tested adaptation measures options through ClimMob. About 30,000 farmers participated in 2015, a number that is quickly growing. In parts of the Indo-Gangetic Plain of India, this work has injected a large number of rice and wheat varieties with climate adaptation traits into local farming and raised productivity by 10-30%. The ClimMob platform is also being used to identify drought resistant common bean cultivars in Central America, and hardy cultivars of a wide range of crops in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania.

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